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Park Rapids boys run to first state berth since 1997 with runner-up finish

Austin Carlson (from left), Bailey Mueller, Brad Eischens, Tanner Otterness, Zach Jewison, Jake Waggoner and Isaac Overmyer took off from the starting line at Friday's Section 8A meet at Bagley.

After falling short the last two years, the Park Rapids boys cross-country team was determined to earn a trip to the state Class A meet this year.

The Panthers used a team effort to accomplish that goal at Friday's Section 8A meet at Bagley.

Park Rapids, which finished fourth at the section meet the last two years, earned that elusive state berth with a solid runner-up showing behind the top-rated team in the state. Perham easily defended the section title with 17 points while the Panthers followed with 99 points. Roseau was third with 124 points. The state berth is the first for the Panthers since 1997.

"The boys, who just missed state last year, were very determined to make it there this year," said Park Rapids head coach Kerry Johnson. "Many of them ran way more this summer and that is really the key. They just wanted it badly."

Sophomore Isaac Overmyer, who qualified for state as an individual last year, led the way for the Panthers with his fourth-place time of 16:22 over the 5,000-meter course. Senior Jake Waggoner and junior Zach Jewison followed by placing 19th and 21st with respective times of 17:40 and 17:59. Senior Tanner Otterness was next by placing 29th in 18:30 and junior Bailey Mueller rounded out the team score by finishing 30th in 18:40. Juniors Austin Carlson (32nd in 18:50) and Brad Eischens (34th in 18:51) rounded out Park Rapids' varsity lineup.

Keeghan Hurley of Perham led the field with a winning time of 15:57.

"The racing strategy was go get some green," said Johnson, referring to the Roseau runners. "We knew that Perham would have no trouble winning and that the rest of us were fighting for second. I thought the guys did a great job. Early in the race, Roseau was closer than I liked, but the guys did what they needed to do to take them and finish strong. Really all seven had great races with really good times."

United North Central finished ninth in this 23-team field with 267 points. Leading the Warriors were Ryan Johnson (27th in 18:26), Luke Wurdock (52nd in 19:38), Joseph Keranen (54th in 19:43), Don Wurdock (59th in 19:58) and Sterling Crabb (94th in 21:56).

Josh Trosen (42nd in 19:15) and Zach Miller (66th in 20:21) ran for Nevis.

The Panthers will compete at the state meet at 10 Saturday morning at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

"Isaac has been so strong all year. His goal was to run just about every day and he accomplished that. He is very motivated and driven. His commitment to summer running really paid off as he continued to improve all season," said Johnson. "I expect that the guys will continue to drop time at state. They are really a competitive bunch so they will do their best. Just getting there was the real goal. Now I want them to soak it up and enjoy the moment."

Team scores: Perham 17, Park Rapids 99, Roseau 124, Pequot Lakes 154, Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal 160, Staples-Motley 161, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 174, Bagley/Fosston 204, United North Central 267, Frazee 285, Warroad 321, Pine River-Backus 332, Pillager 346, Wadena-Deer Creek 351, East Grand Forks 398, Lake Park-Audubon 449, West Marshall 460. Incomplete teams: Crookston, Lake of the Woods, Nevis, Trek North, Laporte, Indus.

Individual results

1, Keeghan Hurley, Perham, 15:57. 2, Brady Speicher, Perham, 16:12. 3, Billy Beseman, Perham, 16:15. 4, Isaac Overmyer, PR, 16:2. 5, Jayden Cullen, Perham, 16:30. 6, Nick Carignan, Perham, 16:44. 7, Dalton Dahms, Perham, 16:55. 8, Korey Zetah, Staples, 16:57. 9, Mikey Ryan, Pequot Lakes, 16:57. 10, Matt Neururer, Pillager, 17:05. 11, Ben Sullivan, Perham, 17:05. 12, Wesley Davies, Bagley, 17:10. 13, Tyler Erickson, Roseau, 17:15. 14, Weston Nelson, Roseau, 17:16. 15, Andreas Geist, Crookston, 17:23. 19, Jake Waggoner, PR, 17:40. 21, Zach Jewison, PR, 17:59. 27 Ryan Johnson, UNC, 18:26. 29, Tanner Otterness, PR, 18:30. 30, Bailey Mueller, PR, 18:40. 32, Austin Carlson, PR, 18:50. 34, Brad Eischens, PR, 18:51. 42, Josh Trosen, Nevis, 19:15. 52, Luke Wurdock, UNC, 19:38. 54, Joseph Keranen, UNC, 19:43. 59, Don Wurdock, UNC, 19:58. 66, Zach Miller, Nevis, 20:21. 94, Sterling Crabb, UNC, 21:56. 95, Jamin Lehto, UNC, 22:00. 100, Calvin Taylor, UNC, 22:10.